Census Statistics

Census statistics and data are used a variety of ways in historical, academic, and genealogical research. Examples: How many people lived in the town in which I was born? How has the population of a particular ethnic group changed in this town over the years?

The data people want today isn’t always the data that was collected – or the data was collected but not compiled in a format that is readily accessible today. Research has its challenges!

A new NARA blog post, “Where to Find Census Statistics,” at https://historyhub.history.gov/community/genealogy/census-records/blog/2022/09/13/where-to-find-census-statistics is a first step in providing some guidance to researchers. If you have other suggestions, I’d be glad to hear them.

Give Your Input on the 2030 Census!

The Bureau of the Census is requesting public input through 15 November 2022 about the forthcoming 2030 census. Topics in which the the Bureau is specifically interested, how to provide your comments, and general information on the census planning process can be found here: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial-census/decade/2030/2030-census-main.html.

1950 Census Website Improvement:  Transcribed Names are Now Shown in Search Results!

On May 17, 2022, NARA’s 1950 Census website development team made a wonderful improvement to the name search feature.  Names transcribed by humans are now shown in the search results above and below the census page image.  What does this mean?  Let’s look at an example.

Let’s search for Mildred Lauska in Ohio.  Fortunately, some human transcribed her name.

Here’s the search result showing both OCR (optical character recognition) results AND human transcription results above the census page image in the upper right under “Matched Name(s).”  (Click on the image for a bigger view.)’

Mildred Lauska, ED 92-47, with search result above the census page image

Here’s the same search result showing both OCR (optical character recognition) results AND human transcription results below the census page.  (Click on the image for a bigger view.)

  • The OCR results generated by “Machine Learning (AI) Extracted Names” are shown first:  Only Mildred’s husband, “Lauska melvins” is boldfaced because OCR had not transcribed Mildred or their daughters Joanne and Judith.
  • The “User Contributed Transcriptions” are shown second:  All persons with the Lauska surname shown in bold:  Melvin Lauska, Mildred Lauska, Joanne Lauska, and Judith Lauska.

Mildred Lauska, ED 92-47, with search result below the census page image

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Important Takeaways:

  • Thank you for your transcriptions!  They matter!  They significantly improve the search results!  In the Lauska family example, all four members of the household can easily be found instead of just one.
  • Now You Can See Everyone’s Transcriptions at Work!  Yay!
  • Narrowing your name search to include state and county always better if the name was significantly misread by the OCR and has not been transcribed, or contains common names (John, Smith, and so forth!)
  • Thank you for your suggestions for website improvements!

1950 Census: Let’s Understand a Few Important Things

The 1950 Census release launched today at https://1950census.archives.gov. It includes a partial name index: primarily first names plus surnames for heads of households and persons in the household with a different surname. The index has a lot of inaccuracies due to optical character recognition (OCR) attempting to decipher the handwriting of 140,000 census enumerators. However, having at least a partial index online on Day 1 is wonderful. Most of the people I was interested in looking for I could find using the name index and some common sense, and if that didn’t work, I knew where to find ED descriptions and maps. I also spent time using the transcription tool to improve the discoverability of whole pages in order to help other researchers; I didn’t limit myself to just the people in which I was I was interested. Please help NARA improve the index by transcribing. Your transcriptions become discoverable by others about 24 hours after you input them.

Having spent virtually all day answering reference questions from Twitter, emails, and posts on the History Hub, it’s clear that there’s a few things that the researcher community needs to understand a little better. Among these, in no particular order:

(1) Census schedules exist for overseas American military and civilian personnel in Alaska, Hawaii, American Samoa, Canton [Kanton] Island, Guam, Johnston Island, Midway Island, Panama Canal Zone, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Wake Island. That’s it. Not in Germany, not in Japan, not anywhere else.

(2) If the census schedule says the “Not at home” household is on page 71 or higher, do not give up because there are “only 20” pages (or whatever) for the Enumeration District. Go to the last image, look at the Sheet Number in the upper right corner of the page. See if it is Sheet 71 or higher, and then work your way back a few pages until you get to page 71 or whatever page your “Not at home” household is on. Read my blog post for more information on what Page 71 and up.

(3) Yes, you can download individual images. Look for the three dots below the blue box that says “Help Us Transcribe the Names” and click on those three dots. You will then be given an opportunity to download: Click on the word download. Choose the level of quality you want (more pixels are better).

(4) You can share a link to an entire ED. You can also share a link to a single page if you’ve searched by name. Being old school, I copy and paste the link my browser shows, but there is a share feature that can do that, too.

(5) Learn by doing. If you’re not sure what one of the features in https://1950census.archives.gov does, click on it. Words in blue or highlighted in blue are clickable links. Gray features also often clickable. Play with it.

(6) https://stevemorse.org has a lot of great tools for census research – and more. Become familiar with them. Use them.

(7) NARA has provided a lot of useful resources with identical content at https://1950census.archives.gov/howto and https://www.archives.gov/research/census/1950. Read pertinent 1950 census blog posts: https://twelvekey.com/blog-posts-on-other-sites.

(8) Only one side of the census form was microfilmed in 1952. The original paper records were destroyed in 1961-63. Side 2 does not exist.

Ok, thanks for reading! Let’s go transcribe some more!

U.S. Census Bureau Webinar to Provide Overview Ahead of 1950 Census Records Release, March 14, 2022, 1 p.m.

The U.S. Census Bureau hosted a webinar on Monday, March 14, 2022, at 1 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time, to give the media and data users an overview of 1950 Census records set to be released from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) on April 1.

The webinar highlighted statistics from the 1950 Census, the historical context to how the 1950 Census was conducted, and provided information from the NARA on how to access these records when they become available to the public and what resources are available now. The presenters are:

  • Sharon Tosi Lacey, U.S. Census Bureau, chief historian
  • Marc Perry, U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division, senior demographer
  • Claire Kluskens, National Archives and Records Administration, genealogy/census subject-matter expert and digital projects archivist
  • Jewel Jordan, U.S. Census Bureau, Public Information Office, public affairs specialist (moderator)

Webinar video, slides, and other information

Resources: 1950 Census Records Release Press Kit

This post was updated 30 March 2022.

NARA’s 1950 Census Genealogy Series Begins March 2, 2022

NARA’s 2022 Genealogy Series begins March 2, 2022, and it focuses on the 1950 census:

  • March 2: Overview of What’s on the 1950 Census
  • March 16: Mapping the 1950 Census: Census Enumeration District Maps at the National Archives
  • March 30: The 1950 Census Website: Design, Development, and Features to Expect
  • April 27: The Story of the 1950 Census Form P8, Indian Reservation Schedule
  • May 11: From Parchments to Printouts: History of the Census from 1790 to 1950
  • May 18: History of Census Records at the National Archives
  • May 25: Historic Census Bureau Sources for Filipino, Guamanian and Chamorro, American Samoan, and Native Hawaiian Research

You’ll definitely want to watch NARA staffer Michael Knight’s March 30 program on the 1950 Census website — which will allow — on Day 1 — name searches AND allow users to help NARA improve this “first draft” name index.

Additional lectures may be scheduled – so check back at https://www.archives.gov/calendar/genealogy-series/2022.

All lectures premiere at 1 p.m. Eastern time – and remain online afterwards on NARA’s Youtube Channel. See you at the program!

NARA 1950 Census Webpages Now Online

This week the National Archives launched several webpages devoted to the 1950 census, including the main page, 1950 Census Records, at https://www.archives.gov/research/census/1950. Information on these pages will undoubtedly evolve over time. The supporting informational pages include:

As noted on 1950 Census Records, you will be able to search the 1950 Census website by name and location beginning on Day 1 — April 1, 2022. To develop the initial name index, NARA used Amazon Web Services’ artificial intelligence / optical character recognition (AI/OCR) Textract tool to extract the handwritten names from the digitized 1950 Census population schedules. Because the initial name index is built on optical character recognition (OCR) technology, it will not be 100-percent accurate. The National Archives is asking for your help in submitting name updates to the index using a transcription tool that will be available on the 1950 Census website. You can help us improve the accuracy of the name index and make the records more accessible for everyone. More information on this volunteer opportunity will be forthcoming.

Researchers can learn more about this census from the 1950 Census blog posts at the History Hub and watch for news at National Archives News.

Exciting 1950 Census News from NARA

When the 1950 Census becomes available on a NARA website on April 1, 2022, there will be a name search function powered by an Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology tool. Granted, it will be imperfect on opening day – but that just means that all of us will have the opportunity to make it better through a transcription tool that will also be available. Exciting times! Read more about it at 1950 Census Release Will Offer Enhanced Digital Access, Public Collaboration Opportunity, a December 14, 2021 press release.

An 1890 Census Fragment for Alaska is Rediscovered and Digitized

The National Archives recently digitized a previously unappreciated fragment of the 1890 census that contains information about 13 families in Alaska. This piece of the (mostly) destroyed 1890 census has essentially been “hiding in plain sight” since the National Archives published the Preliminary Inventory for Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census, in 1964. You can read more about it in “An 1890 Census Fragment for Alaska is Rediscovered.” Digital images are in the National Archives Catalog as “Logbook of Frank Lowell, Special Agent, Alaska District No. 2, 1890 Census” (National Archives Identifier 202288465).